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TAT Sport’s guest cricket expert Josh Giblin continues his preview of the cricket World Cup, this time focusing on Pool B where arguably the most talented, yet underachieving team lie in wake.

Pool B

South Africa

Key player: Dale Steyn

Mat: 96, Wkts: 151, B.B.: 6/39, Ave: 25.14, Econ: 4.80, 4w: 4, 5w: 3

South Africa boast an incredible batting order with great depth and quality and the top two ODI batsmen in the world but Steyn is the real standout on the bowling front, he is the man that oppositions fear. He’ll be the highest ranked ODI bowler at the World Cup, with the top two Saeed Ajmal and Sunil Narine both not appearing for various reasons.

 

Prediction: Runners-up

South Africa would go in as heavy favourites if not for their history of failure at major tournaments. Extraordinarily they’ve never made it to a World Cup final despite fielding teams of great quality for most of the last two decades, could this finally be their year? They warmed up for this year’s tournament by piling on the misery for the West Indies and showing very ominous form indeed. They also toured Australia earlier this summer and lost that series 4-1. Those two series suggest that the South Africans could bully a few teams in the group stages but are no guarantees when playing against the top ranked teams later in the tournament.

 

India

Key player: Virat Kohli

Mat: 150, Runs: 6,232, H.S.: 183, Ave: 51.50, S.R.: 90.17, 100s: 21, 50s: 33

Kohli endured a tough time of it during India’s recent tri-series in Australia and the team’s form also suffered. A real barometer for the side, he’ll be hoping he can recapture the form that saw him score four hundreds in the test series in Australia earlier this summer.

 

Prediction: Quarter-final

The reigning champions defend their crown with lowered expectations following a poor showing in the recent tri-series against Australia and England. Huge question marks remain over whether their talented batting line-up can cope in conditions down under. Their bowling line-up is of much lower quality than their batting and could see them having to chase or set big totals to win, something which they’re certainly capable of at home but not necessarily away.

 

Pakistan

Key player: Shahid Afridi

Mat: 391, Runs: 7,948, H.S.: 124, Ave: 23.58, S.R.: 116.79, 100s: 6, 50s: 39

Wkts: 393, B.B.: 7/12, Ave: 33.96, Econ: 4.62, 4w: 4, 5w: 9

Afridi will be Pakistan’s most experienced bowler by far at the World Cup and will be very important in the absence of number one spinner Saeed Ajmal. This will be the international swansong for possibly the most thrilling batsman the world has ever seen. His batting is more a lower order bonus these days with his match winning bowling performances his staple, but here’s hoping ‘Boom Boom’ has one last 20 or 30 ball 50 left in him.

 

Prediction: Quarter-final

Pakistan’s preparations were less than ideal, losing both ODIs in their mini tour of New Zealand. Their batting is fragile as ever, with 40-year-old captain Misbah-ul-Haq usually holding things together in the middle order. Their pace bowling proved expensive in New Zealand, veteran leg spinner Afridi the only one who kept things tight. They’ll certainly miss the world’s number one bowler Saeed Ajmal. The Pakistani’s of course won the World Cup last time it was held in Australia and New Zealand in 1992. It seems unlikely that they’ll repeat that feat this time but with the enigmatic Pakistan you never know.

 

West Indies

Key player: Marlon Samuels

Mat: 167, Runs: 4,401, H.S.: 126*, Ave: 33.09, S.R.: 74.31, 100s: 7, 50s: 25

The Windies’ classiest batsman, Samuels has now been thrust into a leadership role as vice-captain to rookie leader Jason Holder and his experience will be vital to help out his young captain. When in form and interested Samuels can be a brilliant batsman, hopefully with more responsibility now than he’s ever had in his career he can show the form we all know he’s capable of producing.

 

Prediction: Group stage

It’s been a tumultuous 12 months for West Indies cricket to say the least. The embarrassment of the aborted tour of India saw captain Dwayne Bravo sacked and subsequently was controversially not selected in the World Cup squad, along with fellow all-rounder Kieron Pollard. 23-year-old fast bowler Jason Holder was a shock choice to take over the captaincy, becoming the West Indies’ youngest ever captain. He’d only played 21 ODIs at the time. Their batting is flimsy but contains several potential match winners, while their bowling has been extremely expensive in the last year. No better point illustrates this than the fact that they’ve twice conceded the world record for the fastest 100 in the last 13 months – Corey Anderson in January last year and AB de Villiers last month. They have a lot to do to get their act together to even make it past the group stage.

 

Zimbabwe

Key player: Brendan Taylor

Mat: 161, Runs: 4,825, H.S.: 145*, Ave: 33.27, S.R.: 72.50, 100s: 6, 50s: 31

The former captain is Zimbabwe’s best and most consistent batsman. He is one of their wicket keeping options along with Regis Chakabva and kept wicket in their most recent ODI, their third different wicket keeper for that series. Zimbabwe’s chances will hinge on Taylor being in form and building innings with the others batting around him.

 

Prediction: Group stage

Zimbabwe cricket is at a low ebb without doubt, this is no better highlighted than by their 5-0 humiliation at the hands of Bangladesh in their most recent series. At their best than can be a tight bowling unit who restricts sides to totals that are low enough to cope with for their not overly free-scoring batting line-up. With a new coach in the highly experienced Dav Whatmore at the helm, Zimbabwe will be hoping they can follow this game plan and put in some respectable performances and pick up one or two wins.

 

Ireland

Key player: Ed Joyce

Mat: 45, Runs: 1,354, H.S.: 116*, Ave: 33.02, S.R.: 67.83, 100s: 2, 50s: 9

Coming off an excellent county season for Sussex, at 36 Joyce is in some of the best form of his career. He played for England at the 2007 World Cup before switching back to his native Ireland for the 2011 edition.

 

Prediction: Quarter-final

Ireland shocked the world when they chased down 328 in a remarkable victory over England at the 2011 World Cup and have been consistently the best associate nation in recent times, leading to calls for them to gain test status. This World Cup is a big chance for them to really stake a claim. With the West Indies in turmoil there’s hope that the Irish can cause an upset and make it through to the quarter-final, but it will be tough. Though their batting has experience and an x-factor, their bowling has lost a lot of experience in the last year or so. Their meeting with the West Indies in Nelson in their first game of the World Cup should indicate how far they’ll go in the tournament.

 

UAE

Key player: Khurram Khan

Mat: 10, Runs: 427, H.S.: 132*, Ave: 53.37, S.R.: 83.23, 100s: 1, 50s: 3

The Pakistan-born former captain became the oldest man to score an ODI hundred when he made 132 not out against Afghanistan late last year at the ripe old age of 43. A flight attendant by day, the veteran vice-captain is without doubt the UAE’s best batsman, highlighted by his performance in the qualifiers where he was the overall top scorer, scoring 581 runs at an average of 72.62.

 

Prediction: Group stage

The UAE hosts a lot of cricket these days, with Pakistan playing their home games in the country. Now the UAE national team themselves are back on the world stage, playing in their second World Cup and their first since 1996. Like the ’96 squad, the current side is largely comprised of overseas workers from India and Pakistan. Captain Mohammad Tauqir is one of only two native Emiratis in the squad. He replaced previous captain Khurram Khan as the board wanted an Emirati captain much like in 1996 when the only Emirati in the squad, Sultan Zarawani, was skipper. The UAE isn’t expected to pull up any trees at this World Cup but they have shown good recent form in beating Afghanistan 3-1 in an ODI series.

 

Image courtesy of Sportzwiki